Tuesday, July 2, 2013
Villains and Postmodernism
Look at the above meme. Funny and true, right?
Ever stopped to wonder why exactly he has fangirls?
He's good looking alright. But I don't think he is the type of handsome that alone makes fangirls. (Like with Thor or Sawyer (from Lost)) Tom Hiddleston is certainly a fantastic actor and that might have something to do with it, but again, I don't think that is enough to create what is now commonly referred to as "Loki's Army." He's a cool character, but so are Nick Fury, Hawkeye, Rhodey, and even the Mandarin (the real one...cough cough) from Iron Man 3. I don't see anyone fangirling over them.
Well, I finally figured it out.
Postmodernism is the thought pattern that has pretty much become our society's mantra. Modernism was the thought-pattern during the eighties, when my parents were in school.
Modernism is basically this: If you can't feel it, see it, prove it, hear it, smell it, etc. it doesn't exist. Modernism also puts a heavy basis on success, which is defined as getting rich, getting a nice house, having a good family, and retiring at a decent age. Modernism puts a lot of faith and trust in science, and it helped really propel evolution into popularity and acceptance.
Modernism isn't wholly bad. It's good to be realistic and grounded. It is good to search for evidence. It is good to work hard. My mom says she believes modernism was born out of the disgust her generation had for the baby boomer/hippies.
Postmodernism came into popularity during the nineties and is extremely common now. You basically can't help but have a postmodern mind-set now, And again, not entirely bad. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Postmodernism doesn't care much for science and hard facts. It agrees with ideas like "It might not be true for you, but it is true for me." and "It might now be right for you, but it is right for me." Postmodernism encourages everyone to be open to new ideas and "walk a mile in someone else's shoes" before you judge them. Postmodernism argues that everyone is basically good and society taints us.
Again, not wholly bad. It is good to try to understand people, and it is (sometimes) good to be open to new ideas.
I got to thinking about doing this post when I was shopping with my mom the other day. We were passing through a backpack aisle, and I saw a little boy's backpack featuring Darth Vadar on the back. The font said "Join the power of the Dark Side." Not that strange, right?
But for some reason, I felt like pointing it out to mom and asking if there were backpacks like that when she was in school. She shook her head and said no, everybody hated Darth Vadar too much to own a backpack or anything that featured him in a non-evil light.
'But Kaycee', you might be saying, 'That was before that horrible prequel trilogy that doesn't deserve to go under the name Star Wars. Now everyone feels bad for Anakin because of that!'
It's postmodernism that prompted George Lucas to show Darth Vadar's "emotionally scarring backstory." (Heinz Doofensmirtz anyone? There's some postmodernism right there.) Frankly, I would have rather they did a trilogy on what happened to Han, Leia, and Luke immediately after the fall of the Empire. I'm sure back in the eighties people would have preferred that as well. However, something in the thoughts and minds of Americans has changed, making us all want to learn about the villain.
In a way, this is good. Writers and screenwriters are delving more into villain backstory and goals to make them more understandable. Understanding the villain's motives is a good thing, but I think sympathizing might not be as healthy.
Villains are villains for a reason. They do bad stuff. They blow up houses, rob people, kill people, and kick puppies. They are bad. And yet, in the past years they have become more and more sympathetic and more and more liked. So much so, to where the "villain" is sometimes the "hero." (I'm looking at you Jack Sparrow!)
Everywhere I look, there are postmodernist villains. Not always bad, but not good either. Anakin, Loki, Benjamin Linus, The Evil Queen, Guy of Gisborne, The Mandarin, etc. Honestly, the best villain I can think of that has come out of recent pop culture is President Snow from the Hunger Games. He was understandable, but you most certainly did not sympathize with him.
After reading through both Ember Flame and Hail Frost, I realize there needs to be a balance. Sicreet in Ember Flame was not sympathetic, but he was also not very realistic. Sure, he was demon possessed the whole time, but even demon possessed peeps are real. Valin in Hail Frost was realistic, understandable, but, in my opinion, very sympathetic. It's a good thing he did not turn out to be the main villain, or it would be entirely postmodernism. (The main villain in Hail Frost is a spoiler...)
I think Christian books need a balance. We need to have understandable and well-written villains, but we also need to keep in mind that they are villains. They represent the dark side of the force. They are bad.
I'll be honest, Loki is my favorite character from The Avengers. I think he is the deepest and most-interesting one. Tom Hiddleston was phenomenal as Loki. I love it when a villain truly gets involved and drives a story, and I think that is part of the reason The Avengers was so successful. (I may or may not have a slight teen crush on Loki too...but there's my postmodernism getting involved!)
As a consumer/reader/audience I don't think there is anything wrong with sympathizing with a villain. Obviously that is how the writer wanted you to feel. What I do think is wrong are writers who make there heroes into villains. Making heroes that are bad people, but then giving them a worthy excuse/motivation or bad enough backstory to make up for it.
ABC's Lost is filled with this. The entire show is just a huge, jumbled postmodernist mess. It's very entertaining, yes (if you can get over being offended by ALL the females being sleazy...), but you really have to watch it with a discerning eye.
Honestly, the only character that pops immediately into my head as a truly good hero-worthy guy is Desmond Hume. Oh how I love Desmond. Love Sayid too...but there's my postmodernism....
(I'll be doing a longer post on Lost soon...promise!)
All that to say, Christian writers need to pay closer attention to postmodernism and learn the proper way to respond to it. We need to take away the good stuff from postmodernism (understanding motives, learning backstory) and leave the not-so-great stuff (open mind to all ideas, everyone is right in their own way, bad might not be bad to him, blaming bad behavior on someone else like parents/society etc.) I hope this post was helpful!
P.S. Sorry it's been awhile. I'm not dead, I promise! I've just been insanely busy. I got this SUPER awesome writing area in the pink cave (my room) and I'm almost ready to re-upload Ember Flame. The new Ember Flame has some added/changed scenes and dialogue, but it is the same story and nothing vital to the plot or Hail Frost's plot got added. I mostly just de-awkwarded my more romantic (bleh) scenes, changed some descriptions, made dialogue more readable, and fixed formatting/grammar mistakes. I added some foreshadowing too. I'm super excited!
Been talking to my awesome cover design girl. Her ideas for the Hail Frost cover are AWESOME! XD